Bateson, M. C. (2005, Agosto 28). Learning to teach, teaching to learn. Philadelphia Enquirer .
Learning to teach, teaching to learn
Adults are being taught by their children in a time of breathtaking change. High-tech gear is obvious, but there are subtler shifts, too.
When my daughter was 10, she took me to a video arcade to learn Pacman. More recently, her son(age 3) introduced me to a prehistoric creature I had never heard of called Platybelodon (dinosaursare a bit like technologies and diseases; they keep discovering new ones). Meanwhile, I need ateenager to adjust my Wi-Fi and show me how to edit digital photos.But in addition to teaching their parents how to deal with new technologies, kids today also areteaching them profound ethical lessons about protecting the natural world and respectingthemselves and others. Here are some of the examples I have heard from schoolchildren that gobeyond technology or popular culture: A girl: "I taught my mom to recycle." A boy: "I taught mydad to enjoy rap." A boy: "I taught my mom to be independent." A girl: "I taught my dad not tointerrupt me." A boy: "I taught my dad not to make cracks about gays."It used to be that older people knew more than young people did. In a relatively stable culture, thiswas the basis of their authority. So when Junior argued, parents could say, "I know better becauseI've lived longer." That doesn't necessarily follow these days.The relationship between who learns and who teaches has been fairly constant in human cultures formillenniums; you looked at the previous generation to learn how to live. Of course parents andteachers still do a huge amount of teaching, from life skills to grammar, but today childrenincreasingly are teaching their elders, as well. To thrive under conditions of accelerating change,you have to be learning all the time.A whole series of relationships are becoming two-way streets: The boss has to listen to theemployee, the manufacturer has to listen to the customer, the professor has to listen to the student,and the political leader who doesn't listen is likely to be out of a job. Change means that the natureof authority also is changing all over the world.At the same time, more and more young people are growing up in homes where their parents areused to adapting to change and used to being helped by their children in that process. This wasalways true of immigrants, who have sometimes needed lessons in riding escalators, and often, indealing with bureaucracy through multiple-choice automatic phone systems. More and morecorporate leaders are realizing the necessity of agility and innovation, so there are people at the topwho value their own capacity to learn and to listen rather than assuming they are there to lay downthe law.The truth is that parents don't know all the answers, and now are less likely to pretend they do. Sowhen their sons and daughter become adults, they will assume that they can learn from theirchildren, as well.The transition I'm talking about takes a couple of generations and is moving unevenly throughsociety, but it is already well under way. I think we are now, in this country, beginning to have acollege population whose parents already understood that they didn't know all the answers and werecurious and ready to learn from their children, so that the kids grew up in a kind of dialogue. That'snot to say that it's true of everybody, but there's a shift in ethos.